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Art as Science - Science as Art: Start of a project
"The truth of art prevents science from becoming inhumane, and the truth of the sciences prevents art from making itself ridiculous." (Raymond Chandler)
Are artists scientists, and are scientists also artists? This question was certainly not asked when some craftsmen from the municipal guilds rose into elite circles at court during the course of the 15th century.
Far more, the link between art and science served the emancipation of fine art; its liberation from the status of something mechanical and its elevation to free art. At the beginning of the modern age, geometry and mathematics lent the powers of the imagination scientific qualities, leading to the invention of the central perspective. The arts and the sciences were closely connected in their mutual efforts to "see what holds the earth together in its innermost elements" (Goethe, Faust).
In both fields, the concept of "imaginato" was used to refer to a basic, creative ability to observe natural phenomena over and beyond the merely visible. In the age of rationalism, by contrast, only the visual and the performing arts - and no longer the sciences - were referred to as "arts". The Cartesian age assigned the technical to the sphere of the instrumental, rational and cognitive, whilst the improvising, creative moment remained reserved for artistic, creative expression.
In more recent years, an approach between art and science has been taking place once again. The field of technology and the natural sciences has become so dominant that artists can no longer evade reflection on genetics and other high technologies. Meanwhile, the conditions of artistic activity are gaining in significance for the scientist; experimental, creative systems and their independent lives lead to surprising discoveries and guide the interests of knowledge.
Artists can throw up questions, but they do not owe us any answers. However, scientists are also throwing up an increasing number of questions which natural science is unable to answer.
In the context of the symposium artists, art historians, philosophers, natural and social scientists will examine the thesis "Art as Science - Science as Art" from various viewpoints. At the same time, the symposium is conceived as the starting point for a series of dialogues, round table discussions and studio exhibitions, the results of which are to be presented to the public in the large-scale exhibition "Art as Science" planned by the Nationalgalerie and the MD Berlin.
Concrete collaboration between art historians, restorers and natural scientists will be realised in the context of projects on art history and climatic research as well as art history and atomic physics, in which some natural scientific methods such as neutron auto-radiography are used to examine works of art. In this way areas of paint underneath the visible layers and changes in conception become visible, making new insights into the creative working process of the old masters possible.
The reality of the symbol plays an important role - as two different cognitive processes - in both art and the sciences. The overwhelming complexity of our world and the simultaneously inadequate qualities of our brain construction - resulting from the history of evolution - do not permit us to grasp even a fraction of this complexity. We are thus compelled to describe the world of which we are aware by using symbolic analogies and metaphors. One could describe the symbolic concept as a universal category of all processes and cultures per se.
Until well into the 18th century, alchemy was considered the "art of all arts, the science of all sciences. One branch developed into modern natural sciences, whilst everything else became the dark side of sciences, was either forgotten or suppressed. In harmony with nature, the alchemists attempted to influence the natural world by means of participation, whilst the natural sciences control nature, seeking to make it subservient to them. Nonetheless, alchemist notions have shaped Western culture and science up until the present day: to what extent, for example, do alchemist ideas influence scientific technical projects such as the Human Genom Project or attempts to prolong youth and extend the span of human life? Surely the concept of "homunculus" still survives here?
Man is held captive within four dimensions. Everything which went beyond we view as a fiction. Nature has given us five organs of sense which help us to recognise certain things only when we apply the sphere of our experience to exclude others. It follows from this that a true recognition of reality would mean extending our field of perception into one or more higher dimensions. Since the powers of imagination shape reality according to the principles of analogy and association rather than those of analysis and abstraction, in our consciousness the phenomena of the world are connected by means of images. Images, whether they are used metaphorically or symbolically, represent the links between the outside and the inside; they mediate between sensual contemplation, psychic processing and magical interpretation.
To complete the events, artists, art historians, natural and social scientists will discuss the "extended concept of science and art" introduced by Joseph Beuys.
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